Bruins unable to dig themselves out of another hole *Updated
For the first time since losses to the Carolina Hurricanes and the New Jersey Devils on the 23rd and 27th of December, the Bruins have lost back-to-back games in regulation.
For most of the game, especially in the first 30 minutes, it was a tale of two teams.
The Blue Jackets came out buzzing, simply dominating the Bruins on both ends of the ice.
After head coach Bruce Cassidy yanked goalie Tuukka Rask—five goals allowed on 24 shots—the Bruins woke up with Jaroslav Halak in net, scoring three times in five minutes to cut the deficit to one entering the third.
But that’s as close as they would get, dropping the contest to the Blue Jackets 7-4.
Thursday was the fourth time in five games that the Bruins have found themselves trailing by at least two goals at some point during the contest. They’ve won two of those four.
Despite their late-game heroics in wins against the Hurricanes and Panthers last week, the Bruins know come-from-behind hockey is not a winning formula in the National Hockey League.
“We’ve been behind in too many games too often and now we’ve been bitten twice by it. We’re playing desperate teams that are fighting for their lives and we need to realize that and get into our mode of playing hard and desperate and valuing every puck battle, valuing every possession and every puck management opportunity we have,” said David Backes.
Sure, it was nice to see the Bruins show some resiliency, allowing them to get themselves back into the game, but some worrisome habits are starting to show.
As a whole, the Bruins puck management in their last three or four games has been subpar, but in their back-to-back losses, it’s been big factors in why they’ve come up short in the first two games of a brief three-game road trip.
The Bruins were only credited with a combined 15 giveaways in their last two games, but it seems of late every time the Bruins cough the puck up, it’s ending up in their own net.
Tuesday was an extremely rough night for defenseman Torey Krug who finished the game a minus-four and was one of the guilty parties whose turnover led the Blue Jackets in transition and into a Columbus goal.
As Cassidy would point out, Krug wasn’t the only disappointing Bruin in Columbus on Tuesday.
“I’m a little disappointed in some players,” Cassidy said. “It’s [Patrice Bergeron], it’s [Brad Marchand] in the offensive end of things, but we need a little bit more here,” Cassidy said about the Bruins production, or lack of.
“Our goaltending’s been good. One goal from behind the net I didn’t like, but other than that, we hung our goalies out to dry. We have to be better in front of them.”
I am going to assume Peter Cehlarik was one of those players Cassidy is referring to. The forward was removed from the second line—where he started with David Krejci and Charlie Coyle—on a night where he played just 8:15 and had one lone shot attempt, an attempt that was blocked.
Bergeron’s shorthanded tally, Marchand’s pair and Chris Wagner’s strike accounted for the Bruins four goals. Outside of those three, the Bruins didn’t get much from anyone else.
“There were some guys who never found their game, for whatever reason, fatigue, their will, or they just didn’t have it,” added Cassidy. “Some of the guys that contribute all year, you’re going to give them a pass, right? You move on. Some of the guys that are young that need to prove they can play every night, it’s not good for them.”
It’s not every day you see Charlie McAvoy dropping the gloves, but after Artemi Panarin took exception to a big hit from McAvoy, the two decided to settle things with a fight. One where McAvoy threw several big punches.
The fight was just the second career fight for both McAvoy and Panarin, and oddly enough, McAvoy’s first came last season, also against Columbus.
After an impressive 19-game point streak, I am not going to panic after two losses, however, I am a bit concerned with what the Bruins have to work with at the moment.
David Pastrnak, Jake DeBrusk, Marcus Johansson, Kevan Miller and Matt Grzelcyk all remain sidelined with respective injuries, but the bodies that have been called upon to replace the missing Bruins have not provided any relief whatsoever.
Regardless of how well you’re playing during any given run, losing three of your top six forwards is never an easy challenge to overcome, and the Bruins are facing that right now. Sure, they survived the first few weeks without Pastrnak, but that was with DeBrusk leading the charge, and some balance up and down the lineup.
Now with two more top-six forwards out of action, Cassidy doesn’t have as many solid cards in his deck as he once did, and the Bruins are losing out on valuable time that Johansson and Coyle can be using to build a comfort level with the linemates they will be playing with in the playoffs.
The Bruins enter play Wednesday four points ahead of the Toronto Maple Leafs for second in the Atlantic division. The Maple Leafs have a game in hand and will host the Chicago Blackhawks on Wednesday.
12 games remain on the Bruins schedule, with just four at home. For a Bruins team that is so much better at home, —27-7-3—than on the road, —15-12-6—home-ice in what will soon officially be a first round date with the Maple Leafs is going to be huge. Based off of their previous two playoff series, where Game 7 is played may be the deciding factor in who moves on, and who goes home.
The Bruins will hold practice in Winnipeg later Wednesday afternoon in preparation for Thursday’s tilt with the Jets, hopefully Cassidy will have some good news on the injury front.
Bruins add to organizational depth
According to Mark Divver of the Providence Journal, the Bruins have signed Ferris State freshman defenseman Cooper Zech who will forgo his final three collegiate years.
The 20-year old Zech is coming off a season where he led the team in scoring with 28 points. Averaging .78 points per game, Zech led all freshman defenseman in points per game.
*UPDATED 3/13 3:40pm
Cassidy indeed provided some updates on the injury front after Wednesday’s practice. Some news was good, some bad.
Grezelcyk got some good news back in Boston and hopes to return sometime next week during the Bruins four-game road trip.
DeBrusk skated back in Boston today and is progressing well. Cassidy has no timetable on his return, but the fact that he’s out of the walking boot and back on the ice is a good sign.
Krug is day-to-day with an upper body injury and has already been ruled out for Thursday’s contest.
Cehlarik was sent back down to Providence, as Paul Carey and Connor Clifton have been recalled.